An impassioned, well-defended argument for solar power in the place of our current fossil-fuel-based economy. Two decades ago, environmentalists Berman and O'Connor write, Jimmy Carter installed a solar water heater on the White House roof, donned a cardigan, and announced that the ongoing energy crisis was ``the moral equivalent of war.'' One of Ronald Reagan's first acts as president, however, was to order the heater removed, and during his tenure Department of Energy support for research into solar buildings fell from $100 million to just $1 million. The authors maintain that subsequent administrations have been no better at exploring alternative sources of energy, leading to imbroglios like the Gulf War. They trace this problem to a number of causes, not least the political influence of oil and utilities concerns, and they argue, as have many other writers, that we have an unhealthy addiction to fossil fuels and nuclear power. The authors are sometimes zealously simpleminded, as when they claim that the landlords of Hawaii oppose solar power because water heaters would be ``an extra maintenance hassle'' (and not, as may be the case, because such heaters are expensive to purchase and install). But drawing on the work of ``soft energy'' expert Amory Lovins, they demonstrate convincingly that converting to a solar- or mixed-energy economy would in the long run be profitable for all concerned, and certainly more environmentally sound. They offer reasoned suggestions as to how this conversion might be effected, including wedding microchip manufacture to photovoltaic production, because both use similar technologies; and they urge government agencies and private citizens alike to move ``renewable-energy issues into the mainstream political discourse.'' A thoughtful, provocative, and accessible book that should inspire much discussion in green circles.
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